Brett Jackson’s contact issues last year – and, really, throughout his career – have been well-documented, and needn’t be belabored here. Suffice it to say, the center field prospect has been working on his swing this offseason, and changing his approach at the plate.
Now that he’s arrived at Spring Training, we get a look at his new stance/hand position/elbow position from the Cubs’ Instagram. It looks like the change is designed to get him into and through the zone much more quickly (the kind of change you’d expect to see from someone having contact issues):
Jackson, for his part, explained the swing changes, confirming why they were needed, and what they are intended to accomplish.
“It has to do with using more of my top hand,” Jackson said of the changes, per Cubs.com. “I’m a right-hand dominant athlete, and I have a tendency to try to overdo it a little bit with my bottom hand. If you watch swings from last year, you know my back elbow was getting really high and causing kind of like a teetering effect and making me slightly late on everything. Now, I’m working on just keeping my back elbow down and being shorter to the ball, amongst other things, but that’s the biggest adjustment.”
The trick, of course, will be translating those changes to game action. It’s one thing to pull off the new approach in the cage, but quite another when facing a pitcher who’s changing locations, pitches, and speeds.
“It’s become natural at this point and it’s something I have to stay on top of, but every hitter will tell you that,” he said. “I think the learning process is you learn what works and what doesn’t and what adjustments you need to make. That’s what the end of last year allowed me to discover about myself as a hitter, so I was able to make those adjustments in the offseason. I can be a force at the plate instead of battling as I did.”
Here’s hoping the changes take, because Jackson’s skill set is otherwise tantalizing. If he can keep his power and ability to square the ball up, but improve his contact rate slightly, you’re going to see his batting average and on-base percentage improve organically (simply by virtue of putting more balls in play). Combine that with his natural speed, base-running ability, and outfield defense, and you’ve got a quality regular.
Jackson isn’t expected to break camp with the big club, however, regardless of how good he looks in Spring Training. Hopefully, he’ll look good now, look good for a couple months at Iowa, and then the Cubs will have one of those great, tough decisions.